Jury Instructions

The Federal Docket

United States v. David Blaszczak, et al. (2d Cir. December 2019)

The Court held that confidential, nonpublic information generated and held by a government agency constitutes “property” in Title 18 fraud offenses. The Court also held, unlike in Title 15 securities fraud cases, a defendant charged with securities or wire fraud under Title 18 does not have to receive a personal benefit to be convicted.

United States v. Alphonso I. Waters, Jr. (11th Cir. September 2019)

The Court affirmed the defendant’s convictions for wire fraud, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in rejecting proposed jury instructions that distinguished a “scheme to defraud” from a “scheme to deceive,” since the proposed instructions did not also include language defining an intent to harm based on a misrepresentation of the nature of the bargain.

United States v. Kevin Jay Mast (8th Cir. September 2019)

The Court reversed the defendant’s conviction for “disturbing” federal wildlife property, holding that the statutory provision penalizing anyone who “otherwise violates” the federal wildlife regulations in question does not impose strict liability but rather has an implicit mens rea element requiring proof of criminal negligence.

United States v. Cesar Antonio Becerra (9th Cir. September 2019)

The Court reversed the defendant’s conviction, holding that the district court’s failure to orally instruct the jury on the elements of the charged offenses was a structural and plain error even where the district court orally confirmed with each juror that they had read the instructions.

United States v. David Wright (1st Cir. August 2019)

The Court reversed the defendant’s conviction. In reviewing the trial court’s jury instructions on providing material support or resources to a terrorist organization, the Court held that a defendant does not act “in coordination” with a terrorist group simply by utilizing “strategy” or “tactics” used by that organization and published online by that organization.

United States v. Charles Fulton Sr. (5th Cir. June 2019), On Petition for Rehearing

The Court agreed that the initial warrant by local law enforcement failed to particularize that computers, electronics, or phones were to be seized, so the seizure of the phone was improper. However, the Court held that the evidence was admissible under the good faith exception, since the federal agents that later acquired the phone from the local police and executed a search warrant did not know the police seized it unlawfully (as they had held on to the phone for a year) and since the applicability of the warrant to cell phones was a close question.

United States v. Jeffrey Cooper (11th Cir. June 2019)

Sixth Amendment/Confrontation Clause – There was no confrontation clause violation when law enforcement agent testified that the victims refused to testify because they feared humiliation since their statements regarding why they would not testify were not testimonial. However, the mens’ reasons for visiting the defendant’s apartment were testimonial statements since they were made in response …

United States v. Jeffrey Cooper (11th Cir. June 2019) Read More »

United States v. Paul Harris

United States v. Paul Harris, No. 18-12418 (February 19, 2019) The Eleventh Circuit affirmed a prison guard defendant’s conviction for Hobbs Act extortion based on evidence that he confiscated contraband from inmates for his personal use and that the inmates “consented” by not reporting the defendant out of fear that they would be punished for …

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